What are some of the consequences and opportunities of people using their own devices at work?
Growth in people using their own devices for work (often referred to as ‘Bring Your Own Device’, or BYOD) is another example of how using the term ‘consumers’ is unhelpful when wanting to understand people’s behaviour. In this case, when people use their own devices for work, they bring together their roles as consumers and employees. Just looking around at some of my co-workers, I can see one person using his MacBook Pro for work; another using his iPad; and others using their smartphones for accessing resources for work, tweeting about work, and making and taking work related calls.
One reason for this behaviour is our move toward near ubiquitous and permanent connectivity via Wi-Fi and mobile internet. A quarter of UK mobile internet users never or only infrequently access the internet via other devices (On Device Research), and 57 percent of 15-24s use their mobile phones for accessing the internet (Ofcom).
One set of implications for this behaviour is that technology brand owners and software designers need to continue to develop capabilities that enable people to bring work and non-work together in the one device. Smartphones are obvious examples. As more powerful smartphones enter the market such as the Samsung Galaxy Note and HTC One X, then people will be able to undertake more demanding tasks on them for work. Telefonica – owner of O2 - plans to launch a cloud-based service during the second quarter of this year which will enable people to switch a smartphone between home and work modes. Starting with the Samsung Galaxy S II, the operator will then extend the service to other smartphone models.
Tablet wise, one of the benefits people are likely to find from buying Windows 8 tablets will be that are conducive for both home and work activities, for example through Office software and cloud based apps. Microsoft is likely to use this to create an edge over Android and compete more aggressively with Apple. In fact, Microsoft’s Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner recently stated in a speech that Microsoft believes that Windows 8 will encourage companies to embrace the fact that employees use their own devices for work.
For the organisation, this behaviour means that the formalised approach, in which organisations either issue devices according to what they think is best, or have strict policies about what devices they allow on their networks, is becoming quickly outmoded. In the face of already existing employee behaviour and emerging demand, enterprises have little choice but to embrace this change. Indeed, research shows that allowing employees more responsibility and choice for which devices they use can lead to greater employee productivity and satisfaction.
These changes mean that organisations will need to create wireless networks that employees can access across devices wherever they are. Fixed line access will increasingly constrain how employees want to work. Organisations also need to formally recognise BYOD and create flexible BYOD policies with criteria for behaviour. These need to cover commercially sensitive and confidential data and who owns what data on a smartphone. Of course, wireless networks need to be secure, but also sufficiently adaptable to enable employees to connect to them using the devices they choose.
Some organisations will find these requisites more challenging than others, depending on what they do, their structure, and the number of employees they have among other things. Nevertheless, with expectations of employees changing, especially as people fresh from university for whom ubiquitous and permanent connectivity is a norm, organisations need to either adapt or bear the consequences.